Teenage Delinquency within Catcher in The Rye.
Throughout the mid 1950’s teenage delinquency was seen as a huge problem that had to be addressed as there was significant rise in rebellious teenagers. The 1950's were a time of change, thanks to the second world war concluding. At first, the teenagers of this time conformed within society and would abide by the rules of parents. This was until they started to feel repressed and marginalised by their community and the strict rulings and pressure that came from society. Teenage delinquency then broke out and became increasingly violent and rebellious. The cultural assumption associated with them at this time was that all teenagers were rising up against authority and becoming Juvenile Delinquents, however it was only a few that were bringing the perception of their generation down. A common factor of children considered to be teenage delinquents was rejection from their family. They would respond to this rejection by craving attention in negative ways such as smoking, swearing and simply not abiding by what was ‘normal’ and distorting everything that was expected of them. These juvenile delinquents were rebellious, careless risk takers, they thought they were untouchable. TV, movies and music of the time continued to condone the ways these teenagers were living which just fueled their fire.
The techniques that J.D Salinger used in his writing to highlight this assumption was the use of language and characterisation. For example, the constant use of offensive language such as 'damn', which is shown a whopping 125 times throughout the book. We can tell this is out of the ordinary and an act of defiance as we hear his little sister Phoebe tell him to stop swearing when he has snuck in to see her. J.D Salinger uses characterisation throughout the book to make us believe that Holden Caulfield is a teenage delinquent. For example, the author uses actions such as excessive drinking and substance abuse to show Caulfield’s defiance. We can see how he perceives Caulfield’s actions through the quotes ‘continued smoking like a madman' 'Then I lit another cigarette - it was my last one. I must've smoked about 3 cartons that day' and ‘I felt like getting stinking drunk’.
The author challenges the concept of Caulfield being a teenage delinquent by making the audience believe he is a J.D before telling them more about him. It is then that you discover Caulfield is just a victim of negligence. He is given the title of a teenage delinquent and is seen by the public this way because of his constant craving for attention, which he finds in negative ways such as swearing and smoking. Society sees him as an outcast, rebelling against authority and what is ‘normal’. However, Holden Caulfield is simply alone and craving attention because he was ignored throughout childhood. He is just a hurt teenager that wants to be accepted in society and fit in, but he doesn’t.
I think J.D salinger is challenging the idealism around teenage delinquency because he was in fact like Caulfield growing up. I assume that he was considered a juvenile delinquent, and this is his way of justifying his actions to society.